Gazans try to reach Europe by crossing the Aegean, their last escape route

By Laura Fernandez Palomo and Sara Gomez Armas

Gaza, Dec 1 (EFE).- A message of distress sent by a Greece-bound boat off the coast of Turkey was just the beginning of an agonizing wait that Anas Abu Rujayla’s family in the Gaza Strip had to endure before they eventually received the news of his drowning.

The 22-year-old drowned shortly after boarding a boat that left Turkey on November 5 with 10 young Gazans in search of a better life.

“He left for Istanbul 10 months ago to build a future, but he could not find a job. We knew he would go to Greece by sea, he tried twice before and he drowned the third time,” Abu Rujayla’s mother tells Efe from her house in Khan Younis in the southern part of the coastal enclave.

Anas had called his family and told his father he was embarking on a trip that very same night. It was the last time Anas spoke to his family.

Yahia Barbah, a resident of Khan Younis and one of the boat’s seven survivors, sent a voice message to Abu Rujayla’s brother.

Abu Rujayla, like Barbah, was looking for a job after graduation but only managed to find a job as a cook in the enclave, where 70% of young people are unemployed.

His family had to identify him by the birthmark on his arm because Abu Rujayla’s body “was very swollen after five days in the water,” according to his sister Iman.

Barbah, however, was rescued by the Turkish coastal police after swimming for hours. He was able to return home after a week-long stay in a Turkish detention center.

On the day of the departure, Barbah received a message with the location the boat would leave from.

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